Perhaps it’s fitting that almost a year ago to the day that New York’s nomadic New York Islanders finally opened their brand new home in Belmont Park, the area’s other nomadic community, the New York City Football Club (NYCFC), finally took root in one their places beat own.
It was a monumental day for the city to officially announce Wednesday the planned redevelopment of the Willets Point borough of Queens, which will center on a new 25,000-seat football stadium for NYCFC. The implications for the project go well beyond sport, but it was also an important day from a sporting point of view.
Even before NYCFC stepped onto the field, their search for a home of their own was marred at every turn. Plans to quickly build a stadium in nearby Corona Park met with opposition from the community, plans in the Bronx failed and they even bid on the same land in Belmont Park as the islanders to try and build a home.
You guessed it, that also crumbled when New York State chose the islands’ bid for what would become the UBS Arena.
Islander fans loved saying they were the red-haired stepchild of New York sports teams, but that title was held by NYCFC and its supporters. The football club was forced to play at Yankees Stadium while the hunt went on, and when the Yankees were in town they were sent to Citi Field or Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey — home of their main rival, the New York Red Bulls.
As if that wasn’t enough, Belson Stadium on St. John’s campus was used for games and they have also had to travel to Hartford Connecticut in the past. Even during this year’s playoff run, contingency plans were needed since the Yankees and Mets were both in the MLB playoffs and a Red Bulls playoff run could have complicated things even further.
Luckily they avoided that, but suffice it to say those days will soon come to an end.
“Our trip in New York was incomplete. We didn’t have our own home, we didn’t have our own stadium to play in,” said NYCFC Vice Chairman Marty Edelman. “(Our fans) would need new GPS coordinates for games in different locations week in and week out. This incomplete state ends today… We have returned to Queens. To Willets Point… The journey is over, but it’s just beginning.”
For more information on NYCFC and its new stadium, visit AMNY.com
The amazing thing is that once completed, NYCFC Stadium will be the first professional football stadium to be built in the five boroughs. Football’s popularity has grown steadily year on year and it’s not hard to find fans in a local pub on a weekend morning watching an English Premier League game, but a home for a professional football club has been hard to find in New York City or even on Long Island.
Now football will have its “cathedral”, as MLS Commissioner Don Garber called it, within the city limits. Wednesday’s announcement lasted nearly a decade, but after they’ve been shuttled from stadium to stadium – and won the city’s only championship since 2012 – there is no club or fan base that deserved to celebrate Wednesday’s news more as NYCFC.